With the arrival once again of the deer-shooting-for-fun season, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is urging walkers to check for deer stalking activities before heading out, via its dedicated website.
This year's Heading for the Scottish Hills website has now been launched by SNH. The online service is a quick way for walkers to check that they won't disturb estate activities over the stag stalking season and was set up by SNH to help walkers to plan routes away from stalking areas. The service, which was established four years ago, covers around 70 participating estates in popular hill walking areas mainly in the Cairngorms National Park, the Breadalbane area and on the west coast.
The website includes general information about stalking on all participating estates and contact details for more information. Some estates provide detailed information on the site up to a week in advance, describing where and when stalking will take place, as well as suggested walking routes. There is also information about responsible behaviour for land managers and walkers.
The popularity of walking during stag stalking season led to demand from both walkers and land managers for an online service, say SNH, to make it much easier for walkers and other recreational users to find out about stag stalking, as encouraged by The Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
This year SNH is also looking for feedback on the service.
Fiona Cuninghame, SNH recreation and access officer, explained:
"The web service is a quick way to check that you won't disturb deer stalking when heading to participating estates from July to October.
'We've had good feedback from walkers and land managers about the website. But we want to make sure the service is as easy to use as possible, has the potential to cover a larger area, and is accessible from mobiles and tablets. So I'd welcome suggestions on our online survey.'
The online survey is available here.
Andrea Partridge, Mountaineering Council of Scotland Access Officer, said:
'The Mountaineering Council of Scotland has been closely involved with the Heading for the Scottish Hills website and is delighted to see that steps are being taken to expand the service and make it more accessible. We would encourage all hill-goers to check the website during the stalking season and if needed contact the relevant estate.'
Richard Cooke, chairman of the Association of Deer Management Groups, said:
'The number of people going to the Scottish hills for recreation can make it difficult for deer managers, particularly during the autumn period. There is no reason why both walkers and stalkers can't share the hills, but the need is for more readily available information so that all hill goers can take account of the needs of others. We see the online version of "Heading for the Scottish hills" as a really important step forward in that communication process.'
Not all estates seem to share this view however, and great areas of the country are still not included on the site - though coverage is improving.
The web page takes its name from the 'Heading for the Scottish Hills' book, a collaboration between landowners and mountaineers published between 1988 and 1996. For the first time, this book provided hill walkers with an easy way to identify and contact participating estates to find out where stalking was taking place.
The deer stalking season takes place from 1 July to 20 October.